Wednesday, October 21, 2009

New Joyo Kanji!!


Yesss... every Japanese language nerd's dream come true- more kanji!! Well technically speaking, actually, none of them are new. Rather they are mostly quite common, which is entirely the point. But hey, I guess first I should stop talking (typing?) to myself and let you guys in on what I'm rambling about, right?

So word on the street is that next year they're talking about adjusting the daily use kanji list to 2,131 characters. 5 characters (銑 (SEN, pig iron), 錘 (tsumu, spindle), 匁 (monme, a unit of weight), 勺 (shaku, a unit of capacity), and 脹 (CHOU, swell)) are up for removal, and another 191 are slated to be included. Of those being removed, I would really only consider one (腫, as commonly seen in 腫れる, to become swollen) all that useful.

This would be the first update to the list in almost 30 years, and to be honest I think it's about time. Due largely to the advent of computers and cell phones, it is so much easier to use kanji now - no one knows how to write them, but you don't have to to be able to type them in. (You think people can actually write 鬱病?)

So what's new? Well a lot of stuff is used in place names. Believe it or not, there are quite a few characters that are currently not "general use" that are used in the names of a few cities, prefectures and *ahem* close by countries: 熊 from 熊本 [Kumamoto], 奈 from 神奈川 [Kanagawa] and 奈良 [Nara], 茨 from 茨城 [Ibaragi], 栃 from 栃木 [Tochigi], 阜 from 岐阜 [Gifu], 阪 from 大阪 [Osaka]... even 韓 from 韓国 [Korea]!! These were all on a separate "name characters" list up until now, but I mean seriously? I think Osaka was in my vocab lists 1st semester, Japanese 101. Oh and the word for vocab (語彙)? Until now that didn't make the list as well.

Besides that, some of the stuff on the list are total gimmes - I cannot believe that the words for chopsticks, bath, pillow, rainbow a slew of food words and most of all 俺 (おれ、masculine 'I') is currently not considered "general use".

To be fair, "general use" is really just a guideline though and doesn't necessarily dictate the limits of most people's knowledge. You're supposed to know this list and the name list by the time you graduate high school here, but most kids would already know all the characters on this expansion list as well. Going through them myself I recognized about 2/3rds of them. You can check the list out yourself over at if you want, by the way.

So that being said, I guess the big difference is that a lot of the words that up until now you would see in broken combinations in newspapers will finally be able to be printed properly (完ぺき→完璧, うつ病→鬱病, あいまい→曖昧, etc.). This actually brings up what to me I see as a rather interesting side note - newspapers are written such that anyone with a high school education can read them, and this does not only go for Japan. From what I've heard, actually, US newspapers are written more at like a 9th/10th grade level, if that... not even graduating high school!

More kanji I say, more! It's not going to hurt anything, and hopefully this means these will make their way into a newly revamped JLPT for me to have something to brush up on when I finally get around to taking level 1 again.

Oh and finally a note - the word at the top of this post got snubbed from the list, despite the fact that it is used daily by mixi and keitai users nationwide.

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